Jenness et al. and decline of SWP (was: re: Doug Jenness (andMark Curti

Dayne Goodwin dayneg at
Sun Apr 15 14:06:42 MDT 2001

On Sun, 15 Apr 2001, john.m. cox wrote:
        . . .
> Finally--I don't think the revelations, which seem to be accurate, about
> Mark Curtis' expulsion indicate that he was guilty of the 1988 sexual
> assault charges. The party (and the "Mark Curtis Defense Committee") never
> claimed that a conspiracy existed to frame up Curtis, simply that his
> frame-up unfolded in the manner that many do: he was in the wrong place at
> the wrong time, the cops picked him up in order to "solve" a crime, and only
> then discovered that he was a political activist, involved in certain issues
> in which they certainly had an interest (e.g. immigrant rights). In
> retrospect, some aspects of the official version could well be inaccurate,
> but the prosecutions version is still far harder to accept--that this guy
> would drive up to a house he had never visited, knock on the door, and,
> unconcerned with the sounds of a large family in the house, attack the
> person who answered the door. Also, I think it's unlikely that the party
> leadership would run the risk of defending someone who they thought could
> well have been guilty.
        . . .

        Thanks to John and others who corrected my initial recollection of
the Curtis' Des Moines case happening in the mid-1980s to the actual 1988.
I dug into my files to find the copy of my letter ending support for
Curtis and found that I had sent the same note to both the Defense
Committee and the SWP on March 9, 1992:

        "I became a supporter of the Mark Curtis Defense Committee effort
basically as soon as it organized and I led the Central America Solidarity
Coalition to do the same.  I did so despite personal reservations about
the credibility of Curtis' story.
        "At this point, partly due to elements of the enclosed article, I
think that Curtis probably did attack fifteen year old Demetria Morris.
Therefore I do not intend to participate in the Defense Committee work.
        "I am pleased about Curtis' court victory against the police
brutality he suffered."

        The article I enclosed was "The Strange Case of Mark Curtis:
Victim or Victimizer?" by Fred Pelka published in the Vol. 18, spring 1991
issue of "On the Issues: the Magazine of Substance for Progressive Women"
published by CHOICES Women's Medical Center, Forest Hills, New York;

        I don't know where John gets the image of "a large family in the
house" as I understand that the only person there besides 15 year old
Demetria was her 11 year old brother who is on tape with a 911 call
whispering "This man is raping my sister."  According to Demetria's
testimony she had told Curtis her parents weren't home before he attacked
        I think that all Barnes needed to commit to defending Curtis was
assurance that Curtis would never admit his guilt, if he was guilty. I
have wondered if the Curtis case was helpful to Barnes in maintaining the
kind of paranoid sectarian cult atmosphere that I think he has created in
the SWP.
        In regard to Curtis' October 1997 arrest in Chicago, you may not
have seen the following document which circulated a couple years ago.  I
know that the author was a member of the Chicago branch of the SWP at the
time of Curtis' Chicago arrest.
                 - - - - - - - - - - - - -

please forward widely

                              THE REAL MARK CURTIS STORY
        In mid-October 1997 an important member of the Chicago Socialist
Workers Party(SWP) Branch was missing.  His name is Mark Curtis; a man
whose political frame-up case was known throughout the world.  Political
activists from across the country as well as members of the ANC, Sinn
Fein and other movements had signed on in defense of Curtis.
        Curtis had been convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year old
Iowa girl in 1988.  His supporters claimed many things about Curtis,
including that he was framed by the police because of his political
activism and that his accuser's family was working with the cops.
        Curtis' story was that he was stopped at a traffic light in
Des Moines when a woman approached him, said she was being harassed and
followed, and asked him for a ride home.  Curtis claimed that when he
arrived at her house, she asked to be escorted to the porch for her
safety.  Once on the porch, police burst in behind him, handcuffed him
and pulled down his pants.
        The fifteen-year old girl said she and her brother were watching
television when Curtis knocked on the door and asked for some neighbors
whose street address was similar.  After she answered Curtis' question
that her parents weren't home and told him that he had the wrong
address, Curtis attacked her. Curtis tried to rape her but Curtis didn't
know her 11-year old brother had immediately called the police who
arrived within minutes.
        The police beat up Curtis in jail and the Mark Curtis Defense
Committee(MCDC), which the SWP organized, used the beating to portray
Curtis as the victim - of a political frame-up.
        The MCDC called the young girl's family cops, finks and tried to
intimidate them.  MCDC leaflets saying the girl was a liar were passed
out at her high school.  Her enraged father went to the Des Moines SWP
office and when he saw Curtis through the front window of the locked
office, he broke the window and tried to confront Curtis.  The MCDC used
this incident to portray the father as a violent monster and
successfully sued him for damages to the SWP office.
        In late 1996 Curtis was paroled from prison.  He settled in
Chicago and became a leading member of the SWP branch there.
                CURTIS DISAPPEARS
        It was nearly a year later, mid-October 1997, when SWP members
became concerned that Curtis did not show up for some planned political
activity.  Fearing more police harassment, they frantically discovered
that he wasn't at home or work and no one knew where he was.
        After a day of worry, SWP members were relieved when Curtis
called their office and said he had checked himself into a hospital due
to exhaustion.  Curtis said he was driving near the hospital when he
felt faint, became weak and thought he was going to collapse.  He
managed to get into the hospital and get needed care but his car had
been towed because he parked illegally at the hospital entrance.
        SWP members met Curtis, took him home and went to the impound
lot to pick up his car.  At the impound lot, SWP members were told the
car could not be released because it was evidence in a criminal case, it
had been used in solicitation of a prostitute.
        Curtis admitted that his hospitalization story was a lie.  He
had picked up a prostitute and given her $20 when he was set upon by the
vice squad.  He was booked at a police station across the street from
the hospital and spent about 24 hours in jail.  When he was released he
went to the hospital and called his comrades.
        Curtis was put on "indefinite suspension" by the SWP but
remained a member.  The defunct MCDC had put its unused moneys into the
SWP-organized Political Rights Defense Fund (PRDF).  This money was used
by the SWP to pay legal expenses and attorney fees in a successful
effort to keep Curtis from returning to prison for violation of his
        Curtis admitted to solicitation and the trial record is public
information available from Cook County.  This is the truth, unlike some
elaborate lie that Curtis might make up.
        At a special meeting of the Chicago SWP branch, central national
SWP leader Jack Barnes instructed the members that they were never to
speak about this incident in any way to anyone.
        The SWP continued to publicize the Mark Curtis case.  "The Mark
Curtis Story" is still available in SWP bookstores and in early 1999 the
SWP's weekly paper The Militant was still comparing the Curtis case to
that of real political prisoners such as Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard
        Members of the SWP who have broken Barne's decree of absolute
silence about this incident have been punished, suspended or expelled
from membership.  I am writing this because I think the SWP should stop
covering up for Mark Curtis, admit their mistakes and move on.
                        MOVING ON
        There is an organization which was called the Workers League and
which is now called the Socialist Equality Party which campaigned
against Curtis and the SWP from the beginning of his sexual assault
case.  I do not believe this new information in any way vindicates the
Workers League's outrageous charges that members of the SWP are FBI
agents, complicit in the murder of Leon Trotsky, and the like.  The
Workers League stance against Mark Curtis was motivated by sectarian
hostility, not by concern for justice or the victim.  I don't consider
the Workers League to be worthy of support from workers and progressive
        I am now unequivocally convinced that fifteen-year old Demetria
was telling the truth when she identified and testified against Mark
Curtis.  I can only imagine what it must have felt like to have hundreds
of people from around the world support the man who sexually assaulted
you.  It is my hope that supporters of Mark Curtis will become aware of
this new information and come to the same conclusion I have.  I can only
apologize now that I realize I was on the side of lies and injustice for
so long.  I commend Demetria and her family for standing up against all
the political pressure the SWP put on them.
        For any trade unionists, political activists and political
groups that were harassed or looked down on for refusing to support the
Mark Curtis Defense Committee, you were right.  You didn't automatically
support Curtis just because he was part of a progressive political
organization.  You insisted on facts and evidence and did your own
thinking and research.
                                THE TRUTH
        Why come out with this information?  Because it is simply the
truth.  I came to the conclusion that justice was not being done; that the
truth about Mark Curtis and his propensity for making up stories should be
known.  I also believe that if I was in Demetria's position, I would wish
that anyone who had this information would come forward.
        I want to make it clear that I am in no way attempting to
destroy, weaken or otherwise harm the SWP.  I believe they have made some
bad mistakes and history will be their judge.  I am only making this
information available so that others may know the truth and reach their
own conclusions.
        -- anonymous,  March 31, 1999

More information about the Marxism mailing list